I came home from a brief errand to find my back yard covered in roofing materials – tarps, corrugated plastic, and power tools littered about a third of our lawn. A man with a look about his gaunt eyes that hinted at a criminal record was sitting under one of my trees, munching a sandwich.
“What are you going to do, Mommy?” my four year-old asked as we got out of the car, evidently seeing my look of displeasure. (I didn’t know what I was going to do, but became mindful that whatever it was would be forever stamped on my child’s memory).
Now the presence of these men wasn’t a surprise, for all morning I’d heard their high-decibel profanity from behind my closed windows as they worked on our neighbor’s house. But to see them and their equipment spread out all over our backyard caught me off guard. Not one of them had bothered to knock on the door and ask if we minded them parking all their tools in our grass while they were contracted to work on someone else’s house. By the looks of things, they’d chosen to unload on our property the moment we’d pulled out of the driveway twenty minutes prior.
“Who’s in charge here?” I asked, approaching one of the men, who’d just flicked a cigarette butt in my grass.
“This your yard?” the man asked, whirling around but avoiding my question.
“It is,” I replied.
“I’m sorry, we’ll move our stuff.” He began grabbing cans of cement sealer and hefting them on a wheel barrel. Gaunt Eyes jumped up from his place under my magnolia.
“I don’t mind you using our yard,” I responded. “Just – I appreciate you asking me.”
We parted on courteous terms. Two hours later, as I tucked my children in for naps, the blare of their radio on a hard rock station started up so loud, my daughter’s lullabies were drowned out. I felt irritation stirring within me, and glanced out the window. Gaunt Eyes was shuffling around the bottom of a ladder. As my gaze fell on him, I began declaring promises of God over his life, and I suddenly found myself weeping.
Perhaps you can relate to people who have no consideration of boundaries or personal property. Maybe people walk their dogs through your yard like they do ours, or sit out on your porch steps, or toss beer cans in your flower beds, or use your driveway as a turnabout. Perhaps you have a set of next-door neighbors you’d exchange in a heartbeat. (I used to think living in the country would solve all these problems, until a friend with a rural home said that people were four-wheeling and motorbiking on his property; when he hung up “No Trespassing” signs, he returned to find all but one shredded to pieces).
The Lord has been speaking to me about these “inconvenient people” who seem to be plentiful on the face of the earth. Specifically, He’s been whispering that I have a choice to make. My home is also my mission field. I can continue in my hard thoughts about them, my negative attitudes, asserting to my husband and to myself how ignorant they are, how flagrantly they infringe on our rights and our physical property. (And, such thinking is the truth). Or, I can believe the very real possibility that I might be one of their appointed “destiny partners.” That because they wandered across my radar, to my temporary inconvenience, eternal life might be theirs – that the path of destruction they’re on might be reconfigured because I chose to bless them, and God heard my prayers of intercession. That instead of giving a dark glare or a sideways remark to some rough-talking teenage girls sitting on my stoop, I can walk over and say hello and take an interest in their lives.
In 2 Samuel 24, David is moved to pray on behalf of his countrymen. He is prompted to erect an altar in a very specific place – the threshing floor of a man named Araunah. When Araunah sees David, he honors him and wants to give the king everything needed for the burnt offering, including the very expensive yoke of oxen and the threshing floor itself. David, however, replies to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing” (v. 24). David then gives Araunah fifty shekels of silver and builds the altar. And scripture says “the Lord was moved by the prayer” of David (v. 25).
When prayer or outreach to someone costs us something – our time, our convenience, but also humbling ourselves and putting aside personal distaste and even merited outrage over people’s rudeness – this is a pleasing and worthy sacrifice to the Father. He is moved by such prayers. I wonder if in glory we will be introduced to the contractors and neighborhood thugs and vagabonds for whom we set aside personal offense and took one minute to bless and ask the Lord to reveal Himself, random and obnoxious as their presence might have been. My guess is, “yes.”